1Working with a managed service provider has many benefits to it, so much so that it’s caused considerable growth in the industry. However, as the case is with most services, managed service providers come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s important to understand what service will best match your needs.

The Benefits of Managed IT Services
A managed service provider (MSP) is a company or corporation that provides IT services to a base of customers who are looking to outsource their IT needs. Often times, these managed service providers prove most helpful to companies who don’t want to or can’t hire a full-time IT professional or team of professionals.

Since managed IT services are often chosen by companies who can’t afford the traditional approach of employing a full-time IT professional, they may not seem ideal upon first consideration. However, there are many benefits to a choosing this approach.

One of the main benefits of working with a managed service provider is that you benefit from the collected skills and experience of an entire team, opposed to the skills and experience of a single individual—and most of the time, this comes at a similar cost to hiring a single IT professional. Nonetheless, most of the time, choosing a managed service provider can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.

This is due largely in part to the nature of careers in IT. Most IT professionals enter the industry with a  small amount of experience (which is true of many occupations) but in the first five years or so of employment, that IT professional is going to learn a lot—which means they are going to become more and more valuable as time goes on.1

As a result, you’ll either have to continually pay them more and provide them with increased training and certification opportunities, or else you’ll have turnaround requiring you to hire a new entry-level IT professional who you’ll have to ramp into the position left void by the previous individual. Of course, this could end up costing you some significant time and money.

However, managed service providers eliminate this dilemma. Working on a contract basis with a company offering managed IT solutions means that you will be making use of a skilled team of IT professionals who don’t require your attention or money when it comes to hiring, pay increase, turnover, and so on. This also means that you can budget your IT expenses better. Since managed service providers work on a contract basis, your expense is a fixed monthly rate, and if an engineer decides to leave, back filling their position isn’t your problem. The service provider is going to have all their ducks in a row (if they’re a good one) in order to keep it from affecting the results of your service-level agreement.

A managed service provider’s goal and objective is to make sure that your IT needs are met and even exceeded so that you can focus on running your business. Managed IT services solutions are a way for a company to make strides in their IT management without all the challenges that are posed by a more traditional model.

2If The Shoe Fits—Wear It—But if It Doesn’t…
The benefits of working with a managed service provider for your IT needs are many, so it begs to  question why a company might go another route. Well, the answer to this question really comes down to size. Larger businesses usually opt to employ internal IT staff due to the size of their technological  implementations. Once a company goes over 100 employees or more, it usually becomes more difficult for a managed service provider to support them. For larger companies, you often need in house IT professionals to manage all that’s going on, so this is a circumstance where an MSP wouldn’t make as much sense.

Another area in which an MSP might not fit is in the case of rapid growth. If you have 50 employees in  year one, 150 the next, and then 500 the following year, working with a managed service provider is going to slow you down. The reason behind this comes from the nature of an MSP. An MSP works with a company on a consulting basis, striving to understand the company’s objectives and needs in order to best outfit them with the solutions that fit. This will enable you to make the best decisions, but sometimes growth takes priority over the difference between good and great decisions.

With this as the case, an MSP is going to be asking a lot of questions, and in the event of rapid growth, you’re more likely to benefit from in-house experts that can roll with the punches quickly and adapt to the change. In most cases, if a company is looking to double their staff in a year or so, a managed service provider isn’t usually the best fit.3

Though most large businesses can’t really make use of a full-on MSP, sometimes they will make partial use of one in the form of a hybrid model. For example, many larger companies may still outsource their tier-one helpdesk solutions for their employees or clients. They may outsource monitoring or projects on varying levels. Whatever the case may be, just because a business is over the 100 employee mark, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t still take advantage on a particular MSP’s offerings.

Shopping for the Right MSP
When shopping for a managed service provider, there are a couple of things you want to keep in mind. To begin with, there are varying levels of MSP. Some MSPs only provide monitoring, and they will charge you extra for remote support or on-site visits. Other may offer remote support but, again, will charge extra for on-site work. Furthermore, there are those who will offer everything. It’s not to say that either one is right or wrong, but you have to determine what the right fit is for you.

In most cases you can split MSPs into two different camps. There are those who provide the basics in problem resolution. In others words, a company has a problem (something’s broken) and they call their MSP to come and fix it. This is a very traditional approach to MSP and costs the least. However, you can really end up paying more in down time with this option.

2014-03-04 16_15_26-4 - Windows Photo ViewerThe other camp includes those MSPs who seek to partner with their client in achieving their business goals. Instead of merely problem fixing when something goes wrong, these types of MSPs seek solutions to question such as: How can we help you grow your business? How can we help your procedures run more efficiently? How can we help you stay ahead of the curve? This approach costs more but can also save you a lot of time and expense in the long run.

Whatever your IT needs are, if they fall within the framework of an MSP, then the benefits that can be gained are considerable. Taking into consideration the different options for you out there, most all small businesses can find a fit that will help them maintain or progress their information technologies—and outsourcing to an MSP is a very sensible option.

About Josh Linton
Josh Linton is the Vice President of Technology at VLCM. In this role, Josh manages the company’s technical team that provides tech support and services to its clients.  He is also responsible for evaluating and recommending new products and services to customers.
Josh graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with an emphasis on Information Systems.